Better late than never
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After assuming power in 1949, China’s new government sought international recognition as the legitimate government of the whole of China. Not until 1972 did New Zealand accord that recognition by establishing formal links with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Over the 23-year period of estrangement, Rewi Alley was amongst those to the fore in promoting links with New China. In 1972, New Zealand was one of a large group of Western countries that established relations with the PRC. Ministerial missions were exchanged and embassies established in the two capitals. Closer contact led each country to a better appreciation of the circumstances and priorities of the other. China was clear from the outset that the relationship should be a comprehensive one, rather than being limited to the areas of politics or trade. The years since recognition have seen expanded contacts in many areas, including that of cultural exchange. The idea that New Zealand has a ‘special relationship’ with China is wishful thinking. There are nevertheless a number of factors that have caused China to take a generally positive attitude towards New Zealand. One such factor is the legacy of New Zealand involvement with China in earlier years. Amongst those who contributed to this, Rewi Alley holds a special place.